Why we should vote ‘FOR’ the hospital
On the opinion pages of our newspapers here in Imperial and Wauneta, we have heard all about the reasons why we shouldn’t vote for a new hospital (including from a “concerned citizen” who spewed anonymous vitriol toward the hospital and its administration).
I’m guessing that at this point, those of you who were strongly in favor or strongly opposed to the bond issue have already cast your vote.
To those of you still undecided or who haven’t voted yet, I would like to share some ideas why you should vote for the hospital bond.
As I mentioned last week, our agland owners will get hit the hardest by annual bond payments. But unfortunately, that’s the way Nebraska’s tax system is set up.
Some farmers have expressed to me they would like to see other revenue avenues to help pay for the hospital. Thanks to increased Medicare reimbursement and an agreement between the hospital board and the county, that looks feasible.
The increased Medicare reimbursement represents a real game changer that people should consider before casting their vote.
After declining to move forward on a new facility that would have cost $29.6 million, the hospital board stepped back to consider where to go next.
During that interim, the hospital board learned a new facility would increase Medicare reimbursement by an estimated $930,000 per year. The increase results from a new depreciation schedule and reimbursement for interest paid on the bonds. Those funds will enable the hospital to issue their own $5.475 million in bonds and make the annual payments of $330,000, with money left over.
The hospital board and commissioners are working on a memorandum of understanding where a share of this additional money will be used to help pay off the bonds approved in May 14th’s election.
That will lessen the load our farmers are hit with and address concerns voiced by many others on how to pay for a new facility.
The latest plan calls for building a new hospital facility onto part of the existing structure. This achieves a number of things.
First, it addresses concerns expressed during town hall meetings about building a new, stand-alone facility rather than adding on.
Remodeling was also brought up but a study indicated it would cost as much as $25 million on a facility that is already more than 40 years old. Sure, houses and other buildings can be 100 years old or more. But I’m not counting on those facilities to possibly save my life.
The board, hospital employees and designers developed “Plan B,” which cut nearly 10,000 square feet and incorporated the newest parts of the hospital and clinic structure. That move alone reduced the cost by more than $3.6 million.
Then comes the game changer—increased Medicare reimbursements estimated at $930,000 per year.
So the situation takes on a whole new look:
The first estimate of nearly $30 million was rejected by the board and commissioners, and would have likely gone down if the question had been put to the voters.
A high percentage of bond elections go down to defeat on the first vote. So consider the decision not to move forward as the first election of sorts for a $29.6 million bond issue.
After regrouping, Plan B comes back with a cost savings of $3.65 million. Couple that with the increased Medicare reimbursement and the bond issue goes from $29.6 million to $20.5 million, or down slightly more than $9 million.
The agreement coming between the hospital and the county to use a share of Medicare payment to repay bonds could well represent another key game changer.
Never is it a good time to pursue a bond election. But then again, when is there ever a good time? Had this question arose when commodity prices hit their highs in 2012, I have no doubt a $30 million bond issue could have been passed. Now, times are not as good but we would still be paying for a $30 million facility.
Today, the board has reduced overall cost of the facility $3.65 million and is seeking $9 million less from taxpayers to build a facility that is much-needed and will carry us into the next generation of county residents.
Think of how fortunate we are today that Chase County School district voters approved a new school when they did. The same will be true by approving a new hospital now.
Take a step back from all the rhetoric and bad-mouthing and you’ll see a vote “FOR said bonds and tax” serves as an investment in the future and progress of Chase County.